LOCKDOWNS, vaccinations, hospitals on “black alerts”, and now Omicron – the coronavirus crisis is one political story that has penetrated deep into the public psyche. While the myriad effects of the pandemic are too many to list, it has made one thing starkly clear: the Union is not fit for purpose.

With even the pro-UK Welsh Government condemning inaction from Westminster, and top economists across several institutions calling for greater devolved fiscal powers, that is becoming more and more evident.

With the Tories holding the purse strings, the English government has “curtailed” the response to the deadly disease in other UK nations. As the pandemic wears on, how much longer can the broken Union?


DESPITE the fact that the UK left the EU at the beginning of 2020 with what Boris Johnson called at the time an “excellent deal”, and that the Tories in London are still not sick of claiming to be “done” with it all, Brexit is very much still with us.

The disastrous exit from the European bloc has fed a constant stream of political stories through 2021, as exports plummet, shortages skyrocket, businesses struggle to find staff, and food rots in the fields.

READ MORE: Brexit: New rules will hit food supply chains in new year, industry body warns

But most dangerous of the outcomes from Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has been the impact on Northern Ireland. A protocol agreed by the Tory government has since been undermined by them at every turn – culminating in the unelected peer David Frost dramatically leaving his role as Brexit minister in the run-up to Christmas.

The mess the Tories have made of Brexit is far from behind us.


The National: Migrant Channel crossing incidents

NOVEMBER saw 31 people die after an attempt to cross the Channel went wrong. The tragedy reignited perennial British arguments on immigration – with the Tory government taking the opportunity to blame the French in a diplomatic row that escalated to the highest levels of government.

Charities and former asylum seekers have all suggested a more humane approach to immigration could help combat the rising number of dangerous crossings – but Home Secretary Priti Patel has gone the opposite way.

The Tories’ Nationality and Border Bill – branded “anti-refugee” – breaks international accords and creates a two-tiered system of asylum, which campaigners warn is only likely to worsen the problem. The heavy-handed UK Government seems hell-bent on ensuring this is a political story that does not go away any time soon.


WHO could have guessed that one of the biggest political stories of 2021 would be Christmas parties held in 2020?

Perhaps the Tory government, who apparently engaged in so many lockdown-busting events that they can’t even remember them all. That’d explain why Simon Case – the top civil servant tasked with investigating the affair – was revealed to have been at Christmas parties held in his own office.

Party after party has been splashed across all the papers for weeks – and the whole thing has been made significantly worse amid comparisons to the isolation and loneliness experienced by those of us who made so many sacrifices that year – all while No 10 laughed.

READ MORE: Reports emerge of a separate Christmas quiz at Downing Street

The cheese and wine enjoyed by Downing Street staff has so far cost Boris Johnson’s former press secretary Allegra Stratton her job, and looks set to see the Metropolitan Police taken to court over their refusal to investigate. It also looks to have hit Boris Johnson where it hurts – in the polls.


“CRONYISM is English for corruption.” That’s what one poster in Scotland’s largest city proclaimed earlier this year as allegations (and proven facts) about the Tory tendency to hand multi-million pound public contracts and cushty seats in the Lords to their close friends mounted higher and higher.

Priti Patel, Matt Hancock, Michael Gove, Dominic Cummings (remember him?), Michelle Mone, Malcolm Offord, James Bethell, Robert Jenrick, Ben Elliot, Peter Crudas, 15 out of 16 Conservative Party treasurers. The list of top Tories embroiled in “cronyism” rows is seemingly endless. But as allegations and outrage piled high, no Tory ministers could be seen to budge. At least until…


The National: Former health secretary Matt Hancock

THE former health secretary for England was forced out of his role after news broke that he had broken Covid regulations by having an affair in his office. The aide with whom he was entangled, Gina Coladangelo, had been his friend at university. Hancock had also handed her a role as non-executive director at the Department of Health.

What could have been just another example of Tory cronyism became something much more. Despite the Prime Minister public backing Hancock multiple times, the beleaguered health secretary handed in his resignation.

Hancock became the first top Tory to prove that Boris Johnson’s Brexit cabal aren’t untouchable, with scandal after scandal having previously washed off them like water off so many ducks’ backs.


WHAT started with Hancock came to a head with Owen Paterson. A senior figure in the Tory party, the North Shropshire MP was found guilty of breaking lobbying rules. However, instead of opting to let him serve a 30-day suspension, the Tory government chose instead to try and rip up all the rules and let him off unpunished.

The outrage was fierce. The story dominated the news agenda, and the opposition refused to have any part in Johnson’s new plans for MP standards. The humiliation for the Tories was compounded after they U-turned on the rule changes they had forced through to try and save Paterson after less than 24 hours.

That humiliation became disgrace after Paterson’s seat – which had been a Tory stronghold for two centuries – fell to the LibDems in a December by-election. The staggering loss has everyone looking ahead to what will surely be a key political story in 2022: who will replace Boris Johnson?


The National: Nicola Sturgeon previously dismissed Alex Salmond’s suggestion that their parties work together to reduce the number of Unionist MSPs

AT the start of 2021 there was only one story on the Scottish political agenda: Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon’s clash over the botched inquiry into complaints made against him.

Two Scottish political titans, once close allies, were now at each other’s throats.

The opposition parties had pinned all their hopes on one of two inquiries turning up some dirt on the First Minister so that they wouldn’t have to face her in the Holyrood election in May.

Douglas Ross spent months calling for Sturgeon to step down over allegations she broke the ministerial code – only for all those allegations to evaporate with the conclusion of an independent inquiry led by James Hamilton.

The story has too many twists and turns to relay in this short space, but the First Minister emerged in March unscathed – which many in Scotland wouldn’t have believed possible looking at the headlines in February.


MUCH to the dismay of the opposition, Nicola Sturgeon was still leading the SNP once the May elections rolled around, and her party claimed a historic victory, returning 64 of 129 MSPs.

Empty Unionist claims of failure were ignored as the two pro-independence parties in parliament – the SNP and the Scottish Greens – spent the next few months thrashing out a co-operation agreement. The result was a deal which saw the Greens enter government for the first time in the UK and take two ministerial roles.

The influence of the SNP-Green deal was soon seen in Wales, where another co-operation agreement – this time between Labour and Plaid Cymru – followed. The longer term implications of a UK-wide shift towards coalition politics is yet to be seen,

but recent polling suggests it may be key after the next General Election.


The National: Activists from Friends of the Earth during a demonstration calling for an end to all new oil and gas projects in the North Sea, starting with the proposed Cambo oil field, outside the UK Government's Cop26 hub during the Cop26 summit in Glasgow.

FOR two weeks in 2021, the eyes of the world were on Scotland. The Tories might have liked to claim that the UK was hosting COP26 – widely called the planet’s last hope to avert climate disaster – but to anyone in attendance it was clearly a Scottish affair.

Headlines sang about Scotland’s place on the world stage and leadership efforts in the ongoing global crisis – while Boris Johnson took a private jet to London to dine with climate sceptics.

The Glasgow Pact signed after COP26 went into overtime, but with reports already emerging that targets will be missed, it remains to be seen whether those efforts will go any way to mitigating the effects of a climate crisis through which we are all living.

READ MORE: Poll shows backing for a second Scottish independence referendum in UK

One thing’s for sure, this is another political story which has not gone away – although the COP26 headlines may have.


AS the world continues fighting the dual crises of Covid and the climate, Scotland faces a third: how and when to ask the key question, and ensuring that the answer is Yes.

Despite Unionist outcry being as regular as a cuckoo clock, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that indyref2 is coming down the track. The question is only how long that track may be.

With a firmly pro-independence majority in Holyrood and a staunchly Conservative government in Westminster, a constitutional court clash between the UK and Scottish Governments is on the horizon.

The courts will provide newspapers with countless headlines to add to the countless already piled up on this key topic. With 2022 almost upon us, this is one political story you can bet your house on seeing again in the new year.